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Nearly Half of Colorado Grads Had a Mentor in College

Nearly Half of Colorado Grads Had a Mentor in College

by Cynthia English and Susan Sorenson
Chart: data points are described in article

Graduates of Colorado universities and colleges are more likely than graduates nationally to strongly agree or agree that they had a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams while attending college (48% vs. 42%).

Graduates who strongly agree with having had a mentor and two other key measures -- having had a professor who made them excited about learning and professors who cared about them as a person -- have double the odds of being engaged in their work and thriving in their overall well-being. However, fewer than one in five Colorado graduates (17%) strongly agree with all three statements, compared with 14% of college graduates nationwide.

This state-level information about key college experiences and outcomes can help prospective college students and their families make more informed decisions about higher education.

For this reason, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, American Institutes for Research (AIR) and Gallup are collaborating on a unique partnership called "Transforming Higher Education: Achieving Better Return on Investment and Employee Engagement," supported by USA Funds. This partnership provides practical guidance on higher education outcomes through a state-level college planner that will be released in 2016. It will include data on the return on investment of going to college, the college experience and employee engagement, using AIR's College Measures project and the Gallup-Purdue Index to help students and families.

"Prospective students and their families need better information to select the right postsecondary program, given that college is one of the largest and most important investments a family will make," says William D. Hansen, USA Funds president and CEO. "Legislators, other government leaders and college administrators also need better performance data on which to base critical decisions about higher education and workforce policies and programs. By supporting these new models, we are developing powerful new tools to help students find a more direct path through education to rewarding careers."

Beyond earnings, there are important questions to consider about the outcomes that make a college experience worthwhile.

"We want to know not only whether graduates make more money, but also whether they are more engaged in their work and are thriving in their overall well-being," says Gallup Executive Director for Education and Workforce Development Brandon Busteed. "These outcomes matter because Gallup research shows they link to greater productivity, less absenteeism, lower healthcare cost burden and increased revenue and profit for employers."

The second report from this project, Bridging the Gap Between Higher Education and the Workplace: A Profile of College Graduates in Colorado, focuses on Gallup-Purdue Index results from 1,045 graduates who received a bachelor's degree from a Colorado college or university between 1948 and 2015.

Some key findings include:

  • Two-thirds of Colorado graduates (66%) strongly agree that they had at least one professor who made them excited about learning, on par with the 64% of national graduates who strongly agree with this statement.
  • Of all five well-being elements, the highest percentage of Colorado college graduates are thriving in social well-being (55%). Similar to their national counterparts, Colorado college alumni are least likely to be thriving in physical well-being (36%).
  • Colorado college graduates are as likely as graduates nationally to have achieved the difficult-to-reach goal of thriving in four or more well-being elements. Nearly three in 10 Colorado graduates (29%) are thriving in four or more areas of well-being, on par with alumni in the national Gallup-Purdue Index (25%).

By reporting on findings such as these, the Transforming Higher Education project hopes to start conversations at the state and national levels to ensure that students are gaining the necessary skills and experiences to have productive, thriving careers and lives.

"We're thrilled about this partnership and the critical information it will provide to students and families to prepare for their future," said Dan O'Connell of the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry. "Initiatives like this that connect students and employers with the information they need to identify educational programs and talent pipelines that will lead to successful careers and strong businesses are vital to ensuring Colorado's students are increasingly contributing to our state's strong, growing economy."

Read the full report.

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